on Psalms 123 :4
Those that are at ease - The Babylonians, who, having subdued all the people of the neighboring nations, lived at ease, had none to contend with them, and now became luxurious, indolent, and insolent: they were contemptuous and proud.
on Psalms 123 :4
Our soul is exceedingly filled - Thoroughly sated. This verse states the nature and the source of the contempt which they were called to bear.
With the scorning of those that are at ease - According to one view of these "Psalms of Degrees" (see the Introduction to Psalm 120:1-7) this would be an instance of an "ascent" in the sense, or of the going up of the thought, where in Psalm 123:3 there was mention made in general of "contempt," and in this verse the thought is carried onward and upward, or there is an additional idea which gives intensity to it. It is the scorn proceeding from those who are at ease; that is, the frivolous, the affluent, the proud. The word scorning means derision, mockery. The idea in the Hebrew is derived from stammering, which the word properly means; and then, mockery, as repeating over the words of another, or imitating the voice of one in derision. Compare Psalm 2:4; Job 22:19. The phrase "those that are at ease" properly refers to those who are tranquil or quiet, Job 12:5; Isaiah 32:18; Isaiah 33:20; and then it is used of those who are living at ease; those who are living in self-indulgence and luxury, Amos 6:1; Isaiah 32:9, Isaiah 32:11. Here it would seem to refer to those who, in our language, are "in easy circumstances;" the affluent; those who are not compelled to toil: then, the frivolous, the fashionable, those in the upper walks of life. The contempt was aggravated by the fact that it came from that quarter; not from the low, the ignorant, the common, but from those who claimed to be refined, and who were distinguished in the world of gaiety, of rank, and of fashion. This, even for good people (such is human nature), is much more hard to bear than contempt is when it comes from those who are in the lower walks of life. In the latter case, perhaps, we feel that we can meet contempt with contempt; in the former we cannot. We disregard the opinions of those who are beneath us; there are few who are not affected by the opinions entertained of them by those who are above them.
And with the contempt of the proud - Those who are lifted up; either in rank, in condition, or in feeling. The essential idea is, that it was the contempt of those to whom mankind look up. Religious people have always had much of this to encounter, and often it is in fact a more severe test of the reality and power of religion than the loss of goods, or than bodily pains and penalties. We can bear much if we have the respect - the praise - of those above us; it is a very certain test of the reality and the power of our religion when we can bear the scorn of the great, the noble, the scientific, the frivolous, and the fashionable. Piety is more frequently checked and obscured by this than it is by persecution. It is more rare that piety shines brightly when the frivolous and the fashionable flown upon it than when princes attempt to crush it by power. The church has performed its duty better in the furnace of persecution than it has in the "happy" scenes of the world.
on Psalms 123 :4